GreenThumb, a plant reminder app

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An uncomfortable thing happened last fall as I started the Interaction Design program at Emily Carr University…there I was, really enjoying being in the classroom again, meeting people, learning new things, reinforcing theories I’d read about on blogs and in newsletters, when all of a sudden I felt blocked!! I ran into the proverbial brick wall! In our User-centred Design class we were assigned to come up with an app idea and I couldn’t think of anything. Panic! What? I like paper and pencil. I’m 53, I don’t use apps!

And then I realized I could call on some youthful and encouraging resources and within 5 minutes of posting a message on our “family message board”, two of my nephews in Montreal offered up ideas! Bingo! Thank goodness! Needless to say, I ran with the simpler one 😉

Who is it for? Creating personas

The interesting thing about the app idea I chose is that I could really use it! So in a way I felt connected to the germ of it (pardon the pun!) and the design grew from there. The basic tool is to remind you of when to feed and water your plants. And the name I came up with then and stuck with is GreenThumb. My husband is the one with the green thumb in our house, mine is definitely blue; but what I needed to do was talk to a number of people, potential users of such an app, because I kept hearing: “you are not the user of your app!”  What I need to do was talk to people with real issues or pain points around tending to plants. Below are my two personas:

 

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Essentially, from my quick basic research, I found there were two types of potential users. My primary user/persona is Jasmine, who, although she loves having plants, has never had to tend to them herself and so either overwaters or neglects them, depending on what else is going on in her life. My secondary user is Tom, who loves to take care of his plants, it seems to come naturally to him, however he travels a great deal and so would love to easily share the details of tending to his plants with neighbours or friends.

Journeying through the Pain points

The next stage of the process of designing a user-centred app was to take one of each of the personas on a journey through a particular time frame to see what types of issues and pain points (the highs and the lows, the emotional rollercoaster) occur when they deal with plants in order to start designing a helpful, efficient and easy-to-use tool. Here is Jasmine’s journey map.

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Then using Jasmine’s pain points as opportunities to create something useful, I came up with a basic design that would include personal photos of plants, reminders of when they should be tended to, and a way of sharing this information with a partner or friend. As well, upon further discussions with other potential users, I decided it would be useful to have filtered lists of plants suitable for particular home or office environments, in case one was wanting to increase their indoor garden 🙂

Next, let the designing begin…with a userflow chart

Once this basic framework of an idea was established, I started to build the user flow for the app…first a rough draft, then using a card flow which I then digitized.

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userflow

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Then came the low fidelity wireframes

Using the flow chart above, I then built the low fidelity wireframes of the app to better understand how the user would move from one screen to the next.

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Finally, as the User-centred Design course was wrapping up, I created some of the icons for the app as well as mocked up a few screens to get a general picture of the overall feel.

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The process behind designing a user-centred product

This project was a basic run-through of empathizing with potential users and designing with them in mind, so the product reflects their needs and hopefully offers them a fruitful and engaging tool. I hope this gives you some idea of the steps and process necessary when you are attempting to create a product that will be efficient and effective in its design. And to increase enjoyment, I added a little “Easter egg”, by including little notes as part of the watering reminders/notifications, to do things like “and don’t forget to call your mother!” or “it’s been a while since you cleaned the bathroom!”.

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